Oct 21, 2009, 2:55 PM EST
Lost in the Twins’ late-season turnaround, dramatic Game 163 victory, and quick playoff exit is that they made a significant international signing, handing a $3.15 million bonus to a 16-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic named Miguel Angel Sano.
Considered by many to be the best international prospect available this year and one of the most advanced hitters to come out of the Dominican Republic in a long time, Sano saw multiple teams end their pursuit once MLB was unable to confirm his age.
Instead of signing along with the rest of this season’s top international prospects in July he waited until late September, choosing the Twins over the Pirates and several other teams. While he ended up with less money than initially expected, the $3.15 million bonus is the second-highest ever given to a Latin American prospect (Cuban defectors excluded) and by far the most Minnesota has ever spent on the international market.
Sano’s contract was contingent upon his receiving a work visa, which some feared would be a major hurdle given the questions surrounding his age, but the government officially issued him one yesterday. Of course, even if everything continues to go smoothly on and off the field he’s obviously a long way from the majors. That risk and a delayed payoff is why investing in international prospects requires a team with some gamble in them.
However, the consensus is that Sano has almost limitless upside offensively, so much so that no one seems to care that he has little shot of sticking at shortstop (or even third base). He’s already 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, which obviously led to the doubts about his age, but even if Sano is actually 18 or 19 the signing is something that Twins fans should be absolutely thrilled about. Had he been eligible for the draft Sano almost surely would’ve been a first-round pick and perhaps a top-10 selection.
There’s a pretty decent chance that he never ends up making an impact for the Twins, because that’s just how baseball prospects work, but in terms of increasing their likelihood of developing star-caliber players and building championship-caliber teams the Sano signing is a big step in the right direction for a franchise that has generally been risk-averse. And while the $3.15 million bonus is massive in the context of prospect signing bonuses, it’s still less than Nick Punto made this season.
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